Learning to dance in the rain…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 11th August 2017

Enough already, it really isn’t funny anymore: if the art & craft / board game / puzzle suppliers could stop doing the rain dance now, that would be very much appreciated. I’m sure you’ve made your quarterly target quite comfortably. Joking aside, I do hear that TV companies have breathed a collective sigh of relief over recent weeks, as viewing figures have improved significantly as a result of the awful weather. Having faced months of declining viewing figures, this will at least provide some respite.

Mind you, if the TV market has been facing some challenges of late, the tribulations of the grocery retail channel put those into perspective. As we reported earlier this week, Sainsbury’s is apparently planning to cut 1,000 head office jobs – management consultant McKinsey has been brought in to draw up what is delightfully referred to as a ‘headcount reduction plan.’

Thousands of Asda workers are also facing redundancy or a dramatic cut in their working hours after the retailer posted its worst annual results since the Walmart takeover. According to reports in The Guardian, Asda has begun a consultation with over 3000 employees in 18 under-performing stores, singled out as overstaffed relative to their current sales performance.

While these consultation processes are underway, there have already been changes at Tesco, some which we know about, others which will no doubt come to light soon. What we do know is that Rachel Wakley will be leaving Tesco to join Warner Bros, while former head of buying for toys & nursery Dawn Lavalette has moved to a new category management role within the food division. John Hex, who took on Dawn’s role during her maternity leave, will stay in the position. Among other people leaving the toy team are Jason Gower, who headed up merchandising, and rather surprisingly, John Driscoll. There is no official news on John’s replacement thus far, although I believe an announcement is imminent. I’m sure John will find a new opportunity soon, he will be a great asset to the right company.

I also hear that Llyr Lewis is to leave his role at Pixar in California to return to the UK. No news yet on where he’s going, but it must be a great opportunity to tempt him back from the sunshine state to return to the UK when it is under six feet of water.

It’s great to hear that Toy Fair is 95% sold out for next year. There will no doubt be the usual mixture of coming, going and returning amongst exhibitors, but it is great to see that visitors will have a full show to visit.

I gather that Amazon has finally been attempting to do something about the prevalence of questionable merchandise on its site. Whether this was prompted by last week’s Watchdog expose on dodgy spinners – which in fairness did focus primarily on eBay – it is difficult to say. However, the fact that spinners appear to have borne the brunt of the cull suggests it may have played a part. In my mind, I picture it thus: finally acknowledging it has a responsibility to adhere to the same rigorous safety and copyright standards as every other legitimate retailer, The Amazon Dubious Products Panel has met and ruled that certain products do not come up to scratch, removing the offending items from its site forthwith. Except, apparently, that isn’t quite what has happened: along with many dubious items, some perfectly legitimate items – and in some cases items that have nothing whatsoever to do with spinners – have been caught up in the cull. It’s almost like the whole process was handled by a machine rather than a human. Funny that…

Finally, it has emerged that Amazon saw a 50% fall in the amount of UK corporation tax it paid last year, while recording a 54% increase in turnover for the same period. Maybe HMRC should introduce a Dubious Returns Panel of its own?